Navigating the Post-Privacy Era: How Fashion Brands Can Thrive in a Changing Digital Landscape

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The world of digital marketing has undergone a major shift in the past few years, as privacy concerns and new regulations have forced brands to rethink how they approach customer targeting. The fashion industry, in particular, has been hit hard by these changes, with many of the tools and techniques that once fueled growth now rendered ineffective or too expensive to use.

However, this disruption has also opened up new opportunities for brands willing to think outside the box and embrace creativity and innovation. By leveraging new channels such as retail media networks and the metaverse, and focusing on building deep, long-lasting relationships with their customers, fashion brands can not only survive in this new era but thrive.

The Rise and Fall of Customer Targeting

For many years, customer targeting was the bread and butter of digital marketing. By using tools provided by Silicon Valley tech giants, brands could reach highly specific groups of people with their content, driving conversions and boosting their bottom line. However, recent data privacy changes have turned this model on its head, making it much harder and more costly to target customers at scale.

The EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) were landmark laws that gave users more control over their data, while Apple’s iOS 14 update allowed users to opt out of tracking across apps and websites. As part of its privacy initiatives, Google plans to discontinue third-party cookie tracking in Chrome, which commands 65% of the global web browser market share. Many consumers are opting out of tracking, leading to a rise in customer acquisition costs across platforms.

These changes have signaled a new reality: the era of third-party digital targeting is over. Brands will need to find different ways to differentiate their marketing strategies, broadening their social platform use beyond bottom-of-funnel ads, and focus on creativity and quality of the customer experience.

It’s all about the content

To succeed in this new era of digital marketing, brands need to embrace creativity and experimentation. The updated approach will mirror some of the strategies from the golden age of advertising running from the 1960s to the late 1980s when campaigns competed on creativity and quality to capture audiences. However, the internet requires both a faster pace and a wider range of mediums, particularly video used in multiple ways.

To meet escalating digital content demands, brands are looking outside their organizations for creative development and dissemination. As such, influencers are already key partners for many fashion advertisers, with brands tapping their content-creation skills and accessing their loyal audiences. But competition for top influencers can be stiff, as well as expensive. Spending on influencer marketing skyrocketed from $1.7 billion in 2016 to $13.8 billion in 2021. There are also risks involved, particularly if relationships sour or if the influencer is involved in a scandal or controversy.

For many brands, though, the rewards outweigh the risks. In some cases, fashion companies have elevated influencers to brand-defining roles that were once the sole domain of Hollywood stars and supermodels.

Retail Media Networks

Retail media networks (RMNs) are a new type of advertising platform that allows brands to advertise on retailer-owned sites, apps, and platforms. These networks offer several advantages over traditional advertising channels, including:

  • The ability to reach shoppers at various stages of the customer journey, from discovery to purchase
  • Access to first-party data from retailers, which can be used to inform targeting and messaging
  • A more seamless and integrated shopping experience for consumers, who can discover and purchase products in one place

The rise of RMNs has been driven in part by the decline of third-party cookies, which have traditionally been used for ad targeting. By leveraging first-party data from retailers, brands can still achieve effective targeting through RMNs, which rely on authenticated user data. This allows for more personalized and relevant advertising, leading to increased conversion rates and higher returns on ad spend. As a result, RMNs are expected to continue to grow in popularity as an alternative to third-party cookie-based targeting.

Maximizing ROI: New Channels and Emerging Technologies

In addition to investing in creative campaigns and partnering with influencers, fashion brands are exploring new channels to reach consumers and maximize ROI. One such channel is retail media networks (RMNs), which allow brands to target shoppers while they are browsing e-commerce sites. These networks are already popular in the US, where Walmart and Target have both launched their own RMNs. According to eMarketer, RMNs are expected to account for nearly 10% of all US digital ad spending by 2023.

Another emerging technology that fashion brands are embracing is the metaverse. This immersive digital world has been gaining traction in recent years, with companies such as Roblox and Fortnite offering users the ability to socialize, shop, and attend virtual events. As the metaverse continues to grow, fashion brands will have new opportunities to engage with customers and build communities in this virtual space.

Leveraging First-Party Data: Building Strong Customer Relationships

While creative campaigns and new channels are important for reaching consumers in the post-privacy era, building strong customer relationships is also critical for long-term success. This is where first-party data comes in. By collecting data directly from customers, fashion brands can better understand their preferences, needs, and behaviors. This information can then be used to tailor marketing efforts and offer personalized experiences.

However, collecting first-party data requires trust and transparency. Brands must be clear about what data they are collecting and how it will be used. They must also ensure that data is collected in compliance with privacy regulations. To build trust with customers, brands can offer incentives for data sharing, such as exclusive discounts or early access to new products.

Conclusion: Digital Marketing Reloaded

In the post-privacy era, fashion brands must adapt their digital marketing strategies to remain competitive. The era of third-party digital targeting is over, and brands must find new ways to reach consumers and build relationships. This requires a focus on creativity, quality content, and emerging channels and technologies such as RMNs and the metaverse. It also requires a commitment to building trust and transparency with customers through the responsible collection and use of first-party data.

As fashion brands navigate this new chapter in digital marketing, those that are able to adapt quickly and effectively will be the ones that thrive. By embracing the opportunities presented by this new reality, brands can create engaging experiences for their customers and drive long-term loyalty and growth. It’s time for digital marketing to be reloaded, and fashion brands are ready for the challenge.


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